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Old 05-30-2019, 04:22 PM
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How will traffic and safety be handled whenever flying cars become a reality?


Every futuristic TV show or movie, you see them all just darting around with no order, no regard to safety, anything, just get in and floor it, any height, any speed.

Should these ever exist and become the norm, obviously governments would want to address safety, but how could that be achieved above ground? Does any technology exist currently that could establish lanes, traffic signs, etc. in midair? How could this work exactly, other than the mess we see depicted in current TV and film?
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Old 05-30-2019, 04:32 PM
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Forgot to add, do there exist any movies or TV shows that depict an orderly, planned system of this type of air travel, and how do they depict that being achieved?
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Old 05-30-2019, 04:38 PM
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The Jetsons -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyinD6ZDqeg

Really, for all the reasons that flying cars and rocket backpacks aren't already a thing are pretty much the reasons they aren't going to be a thing.
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Old 05-30-2019, 04:43 PM
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When the time comes, they will regulate them in the same way as all the flying pigs.
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Old 05-30-2019, 04:47 PM
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I seem to recall flying cars in the Fifth Element, and I believe different directions flew at different altitudes, with the various streams of cars all going in the same direction and the same altitude. Star Wars did something similar, including with floating signage (which may have been ads). In Back to the Future 2, the cars not only lined up in the air with floating signs, they ended up backed up in traffic.

If you're going to have flying cars in the real world they're pretty much going to have to be completely computer controlled for reasons of coordination and safety - which really means, because the consequences of a crash are way worse so we can't let some yahoo go drunk flying into traffic.
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Old 05-30-2019, 05:17 PM
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I seem to recall flying cars in the Fifth Element, and I believe different directions flew at different altitudes, with the various streams of cars all going in the same direction and the same altitude. Star Wars did something similar, including with floating signage (which may have been ads). In Back to the Future 2, the cars not only lined up in the air with floating signs, they ended up backed up in traffic.

If you're going to have flying cars in the real world they're pretty much going to have to be completely computer controlled for reasons of coordination and safety - which really means, because the consequences of a crash are way worse so we can't let some yahoo go drunk flying into traffic.
Three very common movies, none of which I have seen! In any of them, does it perhaps show the method of delineation for the traffic lanes? That would be I think one of the biggest hurdles, but perhaps some sort of lighting or hologram could work?
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Old 05-30-2019, 05:23 PM
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By the time we have affordable flying cars, self driving vehicles will have reached maturity and there won't be a pilot.

I'm not sure how that'll affect things like 'lanes'. Maybe we won't have lanes. Or maybe we'll have a bunch of lanes that are separated by 100 feet vertically (so maybe 20 vertical lanes).

But we won't need stop signs or traffic signals since the robots will all be connected and doing the driving.
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Old 05-30-2019, 05:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Helmut Doork View Post
Three very common movies, none of which I have seen! In any of them, does it perhaps show the method of delineation for the traffic lanes? That would be I think one of the biggest hurdles, but perhaps some sort of lighting or hologram could work?
In fifth element and Star Wars (EpII) there's seemingly nothing at all to tell the cars where to fly. In Back to the Future 2 there are rows of what looks like hovering T/Y-shaped light poles (a pole with a horizontal lights extending on each side of its top) which the cars fly alongside, directing them where to go. (There's a separate set of them curving out and down to indicate the 'exit'.) It may be worth noting that the "road" in BttF seems reminiscent of a freeway where in the other two we appear to be seeing city streets.

And in all three the cars are at least mostly manually controlled. (All the better for crazy flying car chases, naturally.)
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Old 05-30-2019, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Helmut Doork View Post
Every futuristic TV show or movie, you see them all just darting around with no order, no regard to safety, anything, just get in and floor it, any height, any speed.

Should these ever exist and become the norm, obviously governments would want to address safety, but how could that be achieved above ground? Does any technology exist currently that could establish lanes, traffic signs, etc. in midair? How could this work exactly, other than the mess we see depicted in current TV and film?
My WAG is that IF we ever get to the point where flying cars are a thing that they will be mainly in autonomous mode, so the driver won't be driving. This is the model we see emerging for the flying taxi services several companies are looking into. The drones, basically, will be completely automated. If it's ever more than a stunt by a few companies having a few flights in a city I think that the government will essentially mandate an integrated flight control system that monitors and regulates all flying traffic. It's not more difficult than having autonomous cars, which I see happening in the next few decades. I don't see it as an insurmountable issue, as I think around the time we have the battery capabilities to make flying cars possible we will already have most people used to their cars being fully autonomous, so this will be a logical extension.

I doubt this will happen in my own lifetime, though you never know...AI research as well as various processing research is at a fever pitch, 5G networks will be transformative, and companies like Tesla have literally billions of miles driven worth of data...and the more data you have, assuming you can process it and develop a learning AI to optimize it using several million computer tries to get it right, the better it will be. If we are where we are today where will we be in 10 years? In 50? It's impossible to even say. Flying cars might be the least of it. Plus, it will finally shut up all the 'where are the flying cars we were promised???' type memes.
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Last edited by XT; 05-30-2019 at 05:49 PM.
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Old 05-30-2019, 06:47 PM
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Flying cars are entirely practical in simulated worlds - e.g., Second Life - they just pass through each other without incident.

Of course, Star Trek style transportation is also possible, so why waste time flying?

Either way, the easiest way to deal with the consequences of physics is to change physics to our needs, rather than allow our needs to go unanswered by our physics. The great odds are that the future is almost entirely virtual and that the technology we have targeting the physical universe languishes as being overly fussy to work in.
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Old 05-30-2019, 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Helmut Doork View Post
Should these ever exist and become the norm, obviously governments would want to address safety, but how could that be achieved above ground? Does any technology exist currently that could establish lanes, traffic signs, etc. in midair? How could this work exactly, other than the mess we see depicted in current TV and film?
This is where I chime in and point out that there already exists some precedent in the world of aircraft which has traffic moving in different directions at different altitudes, right-of-way rules, speed limits, and so forth which, although greatly aided by air traffic control also exist independently of tower guidance.

Flying cars would probably adopt much if not all of that, with perhaps additional rules/regulations as needed.
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Old 05-30-2019, 07:03 PM
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Elves and Faeries will be the traffic cops when flying cars become a reality.
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Old 05-30-2019, 07:17 PM
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As a pilot, I'd say current the current ATC system (even the "next-gen" stuff that's coming) wouldn't work for a world in which everybody has a flying car. Both for reasons of volume and training.

What I've been wondering lately is, suppose we had cars that flew only a maximum of a foot or two off the ground? Never mind the physics, it doesn't matter if they're ground effect vehicles, souped up drones with altitude governors or large versions of Marty McFly's hoverboard. Let's just say they fly somehow, but only very low. Maybe then we could integrate them into the current road traffic system, but we wouldn't have to pave the roads. They could be grass or gravel, or whatever. We might have to raise the bridges and traffic lights a few feet. What else?

I doubt I'm the first person to think of this - can anyone extrapolate from my scenario or summarize somebody who has?
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Old 05-30-2019, 07:36 PM
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What I've been wondering lately is, suppose we had cars that flew only a maximum of a foot or two off the ground? Never mind the physics, it doesn't matter if they're ground effect vehicles, souped up drones with altitude governors or large versions of Marty McFly's hoverboard. Let's just say they fly somehow, but only very low. Maybe then we could integrate them into the current road traffic system, but we wouldn't have to pave the roads.

I don't think that we can not mind the physics--a flying vehicle is going to turn and accelerate/decelerate differently than a wheeled vehicle. So unless someone comes up with some sort of SF magic (perhaps the same magic that makes X-Wings move like airplanes) they wouldn't be able to use the existing road traffic system. (As a pilot, I'm sure you can recount many times when you have had an obstacle in front of your plane and had to slam your foot on the breaks...)
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Old 05-30-2019, 08:44 PM
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(perhaps the same magic that makes X-Wings move like airplanes)
Ooh, perfect - let's do that!
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Old 05-30-2019, 09:09 PM
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There will never be flying cars - vehicles that can drive down a street and then fly you to a distant destination - until we have anti-gravity. And we'll never have anti-gravity.

We may have some forms of direct individual autonomous flight vehicles, but they'll never run on a road. Even so, they won't exist in the kind of numbers that will need a dedicated lane in the air, a la The Jetsons. Fuel costs alone will make that prohibitive.

Take a look at flying car history for reasons why no such vehicles are efficient. It just so happens that I have a site called Flying Cars and Food Pills that will make looking up the history easy.
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Old 05-31-2019, 09:31 AM
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Let's just say they fly somehow, but only very low. Maybe then we could integrate them into the current road traffic system, but we wouldn't have to pave the roads. They could be grass or gravel, or whatever. We might have to raise the bridges and traffic lights a few feet. What else?
Actually I suspect they'd still be paved for a few reasons. One would be maintenance- a concrete or asphalt street requires little maintenance, unlike a grassed-over street. Second, there are whatever aspects of machine recognition of the roadway that would be necessary. Third, in case of some kind of power failure/accident, a smooth, graded and paved road might be better to try to land on instead of a soft and/or indifferently maintained gravel or dirt path.
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Old 06-03-2019, 10:26 AM
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There will never be flying cars - vehicles that can drive down a street and then fly you to a distant destination - until we have anti-gravity. And we'll never have anti-gravity.
so no cars sort of powered like airplanes that fly high in the sky?
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Old 06-03-2019, 10:32 AM
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By the time we have affordable flying cars, self driving vehicles will have reached maturity and there won't be a pilot.
My thought exactly. While I don't think flying cars will ever be a popular mode of transportation, if they ever do become so, it will be many years anon still, and, by then, everything will have been automated.
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Old 06-03-2019, 10:34 AM
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so no cars sort of powered like airplanes that fly high in the sky?
I don't think there will ever be flying cars in the sense of a dual use vehicle that can drive for hundreds of miles or fly for hundreds of miles equally easily. I do think there will be (or could be) something like 'cars' that are, basically, autonomous drones that could fly people around a city or maybe even in the 100 mile range at some point available via something like Uber to pick you up at certain locations or maybe even your house and fly you to a specific destination. THAT, to me, is feasible, or at least could be in a decade or 2 (or 3 or 5 ). Just like I expect fully autonomous cars at some point in that time frame.
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Old 06-03-2019, 10:52 AM
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When all you fools are racing through the air I'll enjoy having the freeway to myself.


mmm
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Old 06-03-2019, 11:01 AM
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Who says they have to fly high? One that gets a foot off of the ground would be very useful. No bumps, easier to pass people on a soft shoulder, ect . .
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Old 06-03-2019, 11:06 AM
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Who says they have to fly high? One that gets a foot off of the ground would be very useful. No bumps, easier to pass people on a soft shoulder, ect . .

Harder to stop, harder to turn, ect. Flying a foot off the ground would be worse than driving on ice with 4 bald tires.
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Old 06-03-2019, 02:38 PM
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We already have small flying vehicles that carry a few people. They are called airplanes and helicopters. They are regulated as aircraft.

We might someday have more/cheaper/more efficient airplanes and helicopters. They will be regulated as aircraft.

I doubt very seriously that we will ever have thick air traffic above populated areas like you sometimes see in movies. Because that would be incredibly dangerous. Ground-based transportation can crash, but the vast majority of mechanical problems with cars do not lead to crashes. They lead to cars stopped on the side of the road. Aircraft that have similar mechanical problems often lead to crashes. You don't want that happening in a densely populated area.
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Old 06-03-2019, 03:43 PM
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We already have small flying vehicles that carry a few people.



We also already have ones that "fly" a foot off the ground.
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Old 06-03-2019, 11:23 PM
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If we were to have vehicles capable of flight up to a few thousand feet, a few simple rules could probably handle a ton of the details.

GPS type systems could have coordinates and altitudes for preferred geofenced "lanes" for travel. and autopilot systems would follow such lanes just like GPS routes on city streets. Doing so puts you in a corridor of other flying traffic moving at similar speeds in a similar direction, reducing the need to be worried about collisions from cross traffic.

Once you get to within a short distance to your destination you depart the lane and fly a little more flexibly to come in for a landing at your destination.

Police would monitor these lanes much like they do now watching for those flying in an irresponsible or erratic way with regard to traffic lanes and dealing with them accordingly.
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Old 06-03-2019, 11:33 PM
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you could also establish lanes at different altitudes for Local traffic vs. long distance and or higher speed traffic.

Example:
traffic at 500m is restricted to 100kph
traffic at 1000m is restricted to 200kph
traffic at 2000m its restricted to 500kph.

so when you are flying to the next city, you get up to higher altitude higher speed lanes and get there quickly. Dropping to lower speed lower altitude lanes as you get closer.

Granted, I know at these speeds 500-1000m of altitude is not much of a cushion. I would assume by the time we get to this level of tech, GPS and or autopilot type tech will be similarly better equipped to manage with smaller margins of safety needed.
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Old 06-04-2019, 06:00 AM
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Every futuristic TV show or movie, you see them all just darting around with no order, no regard to safety, anything, just get in and floor it, any height, any speed.

Should these ever exist and become the norm, obviously governments would want to address safety, but how could that be achieved above ground? Does any technology exist currently that could establish lanes, traffic signs, etc. in midair? How could this work exactly, other than the mess we see depicted in current TV and film?
I imagine they would operate like helicopters, and would likely be controlled by computer, which could operate lanes, etc, for vehicles that can fly as precisely as helicopters.
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Old 06-04-2019, 06:30 AM
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By the time we have affordable flying cars, self driving vehicles will have reached maturity and there won't be a pilot.
This.
In fiction, it's obviously much more interesting to have the hero manually pilot all vehicles and then have an inevitable chase sequence.

In reality, the whole "flying car" concept (that is, a flying vehicle that can take the role of the family car and be used for shopping trips, commutes etc.) requires as a prerequisite that AI pilots the things.
Otherwise they would be far too dangerous and/or too few people would be able to get a license to fly one. The concept would never ... get ready to laugh ... get off the ground.
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Old 06-04-2019, 06:33 AM
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Who says they have to fly high? One that gets a foot off of the ground would be very useful. No bumps, easier to pass people on a soft shoulder, ect . .
Woof, all the bad things about ground transportation, with none of the benefits, and all the bad things about air transportation, with none of the benefits.

Seriously, the ground is an awesome thing to have for transportation, it's hard, you don't fall through it, you can push against it to propel the vehicle, it sucks because it's 2D and you have to maintain the travel path. Floating a foot above it keeps you in 2D and you still have to maintain the path.

Air travel is good because you can travel 'as the crow flies', it's 3D and featureless, so you have 500x the space to travel (vs road space) once you get above buildings and can multiply that for each layer of travel you can organize. It sucks because you have to constantly expend energy to stay in the air, and the air is a much less useful thing to push against to propel the vehicle. Floating just above the ground fails to give you the big benefits, but sticks you with the downsides.



By the time we hit this non-existent future with flying cars, we will have fully automated piloting and automated ATC staying in constant communication with each vehicle to handle the traffic safely. If ATC goes down, the vehicles themselves would have robust auto pilot to avoid collisions, even if the overall speeds would have to decrease to ensure safety.
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Old 06-04-2019, 07:20 AM
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I occasionally gaze at the tangle of wires criss-crossing the New Jersey streets and consider how far away we are from flying to work like George Jetson.

I believe Europeans enjoy their infrastructure tastefully hidden belowdecks, so that might be where proper flying cars get a toehold.
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Old 06-04-2019, 08:31 AM
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I believe Europeans enjoy their infrastructure tastefully hidden belowdecks, so that might be where proper flying cars get a toehold.
We're working on it; please ignore the fat black cables. They're, uh, for when we hang up the Christmas decorations. Yeah, that's it.
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Old 06-04-2019, 06:55 PM
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you could also establish lanes at different altitudes for Local traffic vs. long distance and or higher speed traffic.

Example:
traffic at 500m is restricted to 100kph
traffic at 1000m is restricted to 200kph
traffic at 2000m its restricted to 500kph.

so when you are flying to the next city, you get up to higher altitude higher speed lanes and get there quickly. Dropping to lower speed lower altitude lanes as you get closer.

Granted, I know at these speeds 500-1000m of altitude is not much of a cushion. I would assume by the time we get to this level of tech, GPS and or autopilot type tech will be similarly better equipped to manage with smaller margins of safety needed.
But workable for altitude separation.

When I flew out of Chicago's Palwaukee/Executive airport the separation between my Sundowner (rather like a Piper low-wing) and O'Hare's airliner traffic was about that, and that was without GPS (at least on my side). A pilot is required to hold altitude within 50 feet of a designated altitude (About 16 meters for you metric folks) to get a private pilot's license, higher ratings require even more precision. Separation of east-west and visual/instrument flight rules traffic is around 170 meters and has been since at least the early 1950's. The main reason they aren't squeezed even closer are 1) allowing a generous margin for error and 2) much closer and there are issues with things like wake turbulence.

However, your speeds are MUCH too low - even a lot of the one and two seat airplanes I've flown, the slow end of aviation, barely stay in the air at 100 kph. Airliners can't fly that slow, it's just not possible to reduce speed that much and stay in the air.
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Old 06-04-2019, 09:19 PM
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By the time we have affordable flying cars, self driving vehicles will have reached maturity and there won't be a pilot
This. Even the emergency response vehicles won't be truly manually controlled. It'll just be an X-Box controller that the "driver" uses to tell the on board flight control system that they want to turn right at the next intersection. Then the FCS talks to all the other vehicles in the local mesh network and they negotiate making it happen.
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Old 06-04-2019, 09:54 PM
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There are good reasons why all of those are pictured hovering over water.

Maybe you could replace the gondolas in Venice with them. Or maybe not.
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:09 PM
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However, your speeds are MUCH too low - even a lot of the one and two seat airplanes I've flown, the slow end of aviation, barely stay in the air at 100 kph. Airliners can't fly that slow, it's just not possible to reduce speed that much and stay in the air.
For sake of argument I am assuming a "flying car/quadrotor" type scenario as opposed to a true fixed wing aircraft. I am assuming it would be less than optimal having folks skimming residential rooftops at 500kph.
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:26 PM
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For sake of argument I am assuming a "flying car/quadrotor" type scenario as opposed to a true fixed wing aircraft. I am assuming it would be less than optimal having folks skimming residential rooftops at 500kph.
But there'd be no problems landing on a building in NYC.
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:41 PM
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Forgot to add, do there exist any movies or TV shows that depict an orderly, planned system of this type of air travel, and how do they depict that being achieved?

As I think someone mentioned, in The Fifth Element, Star Wars films and other sci fi series, flying car traffic tends to be portrayed as altitude separated "highways in the sky". Often paralleling ground traffic. Really not that much different from how actual air traffic control operations are handled IRL, except that your Star Wars speeder or Blade Runner spinner hovers, so they can be packed in more tightly than aircraft.

"Traffic" isn't much of an engineering mystery to me. I could easily envision bands of flying cars flying along I-95 or the LIE, flown by an AI guided by GPS, radar, visual sensors or whatever.

And in reality, there is no reason that a network of AI controlled cars would need to follow visible designated flight plans. The AI could just control them like a swarm of bees, taking the most direct route to wherever they are going.


Where I think the main problem would be is with parking and transitioning from air to ground transport. If all of a sudden, ten times the number of vehicles come flying into Manhattan each morning for work, where do they land and park? There are only so many rooftops to land on and each roof might have thousands of commuters working under it.
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